Intangible Things I Will Never Forget

  1. The softness of the brass number plaque on my childhood house front door as I polished it shiny. It was metal silk.
  2. The quality of acceptance from the Mack’s Clam Shack (bar) patrons that allowed eight year old me to walk in, pretend to play the submarine arcade game for a half and hour and walk out. At least once a week. Say what you want about the 70’s, some of it made sense.
  3. The actual physical pain of my first broken heart. I had thought it was a metaphor.
  4. How headlights moved across the walls of my room at night, entering in one window, bending on the chine of the ceiling, and exiting out the other window. Ethereal brief visitors.
  5. The stark awakeness of trying to imperceptibly remove myself from a bed without waking a nearby sleeping child
  6. The Satisfaction of picking up a delicate piece of Sand crust without breaking it
  7. The first time I heard my own recorded voice


The Devil is in the Details

The Devil is in the Details

Today we all had to read our outlines for the term paper. I was pretty excited about mine. I felt like I took some of the ideas from our readings and found a way to apply them to my current work in a new way. Once I read it out to the class, the professor responded (as she did to many others) “Wow, that’s really big. How about you take on just the first part?”

She was right, the proposal was too big for a 10 page term paper, and I am grateful that she helped me narrow down my focus to something I can get done more easily. What is emerging in my mind is how i interpreted the assignment – I had thought that I needed to not only do research on the course topic but ALSO create an original project applying the research.

I went back and checked. NOWHERE in the syllabus did it say we needed to do this extra work. Why did I feel the need to go way beyond what was required? So often I get stuck in a perfectionism loop where I feel like I need to do things to a super level of competency or detail.

“The devil is in the details” usually means that we need to pay attention to details so the work is good quality. I’m starting to think that perhaps the devil is in the need to go to the detail level even when it is not healthy, efficient, or even good process. The need to go above and beyond has served me well in many ways, but sometimes at great cost.

“Discernment” is the motto I am going to try. Discern when details need attention and when a broad overview is more suitable.

Looking for deer ticks after a day in the woods? Detail attitude for the win!

Enjoying a student production of a famous musical? Take that perfectionism down a few notches.

What if I told you you're overthinking this

In Just Spring

When I was a little girl I would often walk the yard with my mother. As soon as it was warm enough to be outside without a coat, we would slowly walk around the yard, noting the progress of the bulbs and other flowers. She with a coffee cup in hand, me trailing along beside her.

We would walk a few steps, stop, admire….she’d tell me the latin names for whatever plant we were near…we would walk a couple more steps, and stop…she would gesture with her hands how tall some shrub would eventually be in 2 or 3 years time and how this nearby evergreen would some day fill in the fence and hide the neighbor’s ugly electric meter…then we would walk a bit farther and my Mom would be still and silent. I could see from her familiar drifty gaze that she was envisioning a carpet of blue tiny flowers that would spread from the few plants now showing. My role was to say, “Ooh! ….Ahh!” at the appropriate times.

From my earliest memories it was like this, sometimes I walked around and tried to take in the information she was sharing…but the greatest gift I got from these walks was a religious education. It was entrancing to be with her, to learn the vision of a gardener.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us:

“In April, we cannot see sunflowers in France, so we might say the sunflowers do not exist. But the local farmers have already planted thousands of seeds, and when they look at the bare hills, they may be able to see the sunflowers already. The sunflowers are there. They lack only the conditions of sun, heat, rain and July. Just because we cannot see them does not mean that they do not exist.”

Gardeners are perhaps the most successful optimists in the world. Gardeners are people of faith, ones who see beauty and hope where none currently exists. It is easy for most of us to lose sight of the warmer, more plentiful times of year in the fall, when plants are dying back and the sun is retreating. Through the grey and icy winter- how do we keep hope alive? Gardeners do it by securing a promise of bright days under the soil.

As we mark the beginning of Spring- the bulbs we planted in our fall gardens are coming up now- some are even blooming. We are turning the soil in our vegetable patches, preparing to plant for the future. Sure the ground seems bare, but there is great potential and a renewal of what we know is good, and that hope carries us through until colorful blooms and plentiful harvests fill our senses.

The stories of resurrection make a lot of sense in the spring. People have found ways to pass along the wisdom of knowing that even in the darkest of times, there is hope for the future. Hope that we all carry around inside, just like a seed carries all the potential of a sunflower.

(A message delivered to Channing Memorial Church on March 25, 2012. By Halcyon Westall)


What Turns a Busy Day Into A Great Day?

I had a great day Sunday-

I was pressed for time (as usual!) so I walked into my office, found a template for paper dreidels in my files, copied some off and made an example dreidel for the Preschool-Kindergarten class… and zipped over to the Sanctuary…
Wrote out some announcements to be read in the Sanctuary (and brought in the traveling chalice- and got stopped by the usher for questions and the layleader for other questions)…head back to Channing House…
Got the movie on the Children’s March (how children made a difference in the 1963 Civil Rights Movement) prepped for the Fifth-Sixth grade class…turn on the heat in there!.. gathered teacher binders…and headed over to Parish Hall…
Set up a couple of couple of classrooms, putting away random flotsam that seems to wash up during the week…..check in with the folks in the Re-Gift Store…. paid the childcare gals….got the supplies together for the pencil case making craft (for the schoolbags for Haiti) happening during Fellowship …unlocked the playground….and back to Channing House!
Prepped my notes and handouts for the parent information meeting for Our Whole Lives also happening during Fellowship!….Then I grabbed my notes to help teach the Neighboring Faiths class on Islam, which was an amazing and engaged group…after class, I whisked into the Library to set up for the OWL meeting, including dragging the totally heavy and tippy TV cart from the Fireplace Room and cued that movie.  Ack!  beter try to dash over to Parish Hall for a cuppa coffee!
Drat!  Only decaf left!

Pour a bit before checking in with the Haiti craft….I’m stopped by parents who want to lead a snow tubing evening for the Junior Youth social night- so we plan to check in later…see lots of people I would love to talk to, but knowing I have to get to the OWL meeting I do no more than briefly check in with the teachers and parents I see and move on (with a few stops to help direct adults to meetings here and there)…Have a few unexpected young folks at the OWL meeting, so we gather some Legos and set up for a multi-gen meeting!  A great hour is had with thoughtful parents and leaders- energizing!…  Then quickly clean up and scoot back over to the remainder of the pencil cases craft in Parish Hall!…Great connections with the folks there then clean up and do everything in reverse order to shut down for the day.

Certainly it was much like many of my Sunday mornings at Channing- (quieter than some!) but this one left me especially energized, hopeful and ready to take on more.

SO what made this wild ride of a morning have such a good feeling?  After thinking it over for a couple of days, I think what makes me so blissful is seeing programs come together that have been slowly gathering interest and momentum over the past few years- Elementary OWL and Youth Programs.  Both programs have special meaning to me, and it has been my dream to see both areas of Channing’s ministry grow.  Now it is happening!

In the third year of offering Elementary Our Whole Lives, we have a fourth trained leader and a big class of children who might join.  Even before “official” registration, the class is half full!  Channing has always been a great supporter of Junior High OWL, and we have shown that Elementary OWL is important to us, too!

It is a little more amazing that the youth program is taking flight so strongly.  We are offering Sunday Morning Neighboring Faiths classes, monthly Coming of Age and Social Nights.  There is a lot of overlap in the youth who attend these three parts of the program, so the youth are getting to know one another and make real bonds.  Kim Shute and I are leading all three elements right now, so we get to know the youth well also!  It has been very rewarding.  When I hear a youth ask what we will do next month for social night with an expectant tone and SMILING – well, that’s the best!

I could go on and on, but I’ll keep it short.  Part of me wants to hold on to these happy feelings, but I know it would be healthier for the program for me to share some of this joy with other caring adults, too.  I have LOVED planning lessons on Islam and creating a 6 foot banana split trough, but I need to also have time to administrate lessons and communicate more with our other teachers!  SO I am hoping that this amazing energy can be carried on for the youth…perhaps you are ready to have this busy/happy feeling, too?  Something important is happening at Channing for the youth, something that we can keep going, and building!  I had no idea the youth would be so responsive, so fast to the attention we are paying to their classes and programming.

One of our activities in class was drawing what we envision G-d to look like.  Well, I see G-d in just about everything, and especially in the relationships we people have with each other.  So when I have a day where relationships are strong and vital and since I have had a challenging Fall, I am singing:

What Wondrous Love Is This (Hymn 18 in Singing the Living Tradition)
link to mp3
What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That brings my heart such bliss
And takes away the pain of my soul, of my soul
And takes away the pain of my soul

When I was sinking down,
Sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath my sorrows ground,
Friends to me gather’d round,
O my soul, O my soul,
Friends to me gather’d round, O my soul

To love and to all friends, I will sing, I will sing,
To love and to all friends, I will sing
To love and to all friends who
Pain and sorrow mend,
With thank unto the end I will sing, I will sing,
With thanks until to the end I will sing.

American Folk Hymn,
New words by Connie Campbell Hart, UUA

Breathe In Breathe Out

HI Folks,

I am writing a reflection for this week’s service about breath, and I remembered this song (Uh-Huh by Holly Near.)  This song makes me happy and calm, so I thought I would share it with you all in this season of rushing about, and finishing.
Uh- Huh is track #14

There is a lot of wisdom in remembering to Breathe In, Breathe Out.

Hope to see you Sunday, Amy and I will give our last service together.

Breathe In

Breathe Out